Friday 24 November 2017

Cabinet only told of 'clean' exit after it was decided

Ministers given just an hour's notice about meeting to ratify move, writes Group Political Editor Fionnan Sheahan

Group Political Editor Fionnan Sheahan

THE Cabinet was only told about the country making a clean exit from the bailout without a safety net the day after the decision was actually made, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Ministers got just an hour's notice to attend the special Cabinet meeting on Thursday morning to ratify the decision taken 24 hours earlier.

The powerful mini-Cabinet, made up of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, decided on the strategy early on Wednesday.

And the Economic Management Council (EMC) agreed the week before to aim to take a decision last week, ahead of Mr Noonan's departure to an EU finance ministers' meeting.

Within the Coalition, there are continual complaints by ministers outside the EMC about the real decisions being taken there, rather than at Cabinet.

Government officials had pencilled in the EU meeting as the target date for the decision over the previous three weeks, but knew there was some leeway.

The EMC's regular Wednesday afternoon meeting was moved to 8am last week.

The four senior ministers agreed to announce the decision on the clean exit the following day, and signed off on the memo to Cabinet recommending the strategy.

The EMC also agreed to call a full Cabinet meeting the following morning, but didn't inform other ministers at that point.

The Cabinet merely ratified the decision at their special meeting on Thursday morning. "The memo was agreed by the EMC. Constitutionally, the decision can only be taken by the Cabinet," a Government source said.

Ministers outside of the EMC were taken by surprise on Thursday morning to be called to a special Cabinet meeting. Mr Noonan gave a presentation to Cabinet recommending the decision.

The Taoiseach formally made his dramatic announcement to the Dail at noon "as a matter of courtesy".

The bailout exit had also been discussed at the normal Tuesday morning Cabinet meeting. But Mr Noonan gave no indication a decision was imminent. He warned if the Government did go with a precautionary credit line, it would come with strict conditions.

Some government sources say the EMC "couldn't trust" particular ministers, while others say the real reason was the market sensitivity of the announcement. Before announcing the decision to the Dail on Thursday, Mr Kenny rang a number of key EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Meanwhile, a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll finds deep disbelief that Budget 2014 was the last harsh one, with seven out of 10 people believing there will be more tough budgets.

Sunday Independent

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